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09 March 2014

WWII veteran originally planned to fight on ground took to the skies

Mar. 8, 2014

George Ditzhazy World War II Veteran U.S. Army Air Corps Palm Desert U.S. Army Air Corps B-24 bomber pilot George Ditzhazy is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
George Ditzhazy World War II Veteran U.S. Army Air Corps Palm
Desert U.S. Army Air Corps B-24 bomber pilot George Ditzhazy is awarded
the Distinguished Flying Cross. / Provided photo
George Ditzhazy, WWII Veteran

George Ditzhazy, WWII Veteran / Denise Goolsby/The Desert Sun

George Ditzhazy, World War II Veteran, U.S. Army Air Corps, Palm Desert

George Ditzhazy, World War II Veteran, U.S. Army Air Corps, Palm Desert / Provided photo

U.S. Army Air Corps veteran George Ditzhazy — a B-24 bomber pilot
who flew 50 combat missions over Europe during World War II — originally
planned to fight on the ground, not in the clouds.

“I went down
to the Marine Corps (recruiting station) and they were closed for lunch
so I went across the hallway and there was the U.S. Army Air Corps,” he
said. “And the first thing you know, I’m standing like this (holds his
right hand up in oath-taking position).

After the young
Michigander earned his wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant at
Lubbock Army Air Field, he was assigned to Davis-Monthan Army Air Field
in Tucson, Ariz. where he learned to fly four-engine bombers.

“I wanted to be a fighter pilot but they said, ‘You’ve got long legs, we’ll put you in the B-24,’” Ditzhazy said, laughing.

pilot and his crew were heading across the Atlantic — bound for Oran,
North Africa on the troop ship USS West Point — while a major military
maneuver was unfolding in early June, 1944.

“We were going over on June 6 when they announced the invasion of Normandy.”

North Africa, the crew was assigned to an air base in Grottaglie,
Italy. They were assigned to the 15th Air Force, 449th Bomb Group, 718th
Bomb Squadron.

Just a month later — on July 26, 1944 — the crew found themselves bailing out over enemy skies.

my fourth mission, I was shot down,” he said. “Our radio operator was
killed — his chute didn’t open. Three of our crew were taken prisoners.
The mission was to Vienna, which was socked over — bad weather — so we
went to an alternate, secondary target which was Graz, Austria. That’s
where we were hit. We lost two engines to flak. We got back as far as
Yugoslavia, on the coast of the Adriatic, where we ran out of gas. We
had to bail out. We were in the hills — you couldn’t land.”

“On the way down we were being shot at. We weren’t very high when we bailed out. We were only about 2,500 feet.”

Ditzhazy, who got scratched up a bit when he landed in some bushes, was otherwise OK.

Five of his crew members also made it to the ground safely.

were picked up by Marshal Tito’s partisans, two young kids picked me up
... two young boys, probably 13, 14 with submachine guns. As we were
landing, they were yelling, ‘Americano, Hey Joe, partisans!’”

Partisans — officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan
Detachments of Yugoslavia — was known to be Europe’s most effective
anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II. The movement was led
by Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

He said the partisans — “They all wore
caps that had this little red star ... led us up into the hills and
we’d hide for awhile when we’d see the patrols looking for us,” he said.

first night we were picked up, they took us into — it was like a cave
in the hills — and they interrogated us and one thing they couldn’t
understand was why none of us had a gun — because we left them in the
planes. Who thinks about taking their gun when you’re trying to save
your life.”

The men were hungry, and while they were hunkered down in the cave, the partisans prepared dinner.

roasted a lamb and it smelled so good — and it’s dark now, not real
good light inside, you couldn’t have much light on. The problem was,
when I took that first big bite, I hit nothing but fat. For 10 years or
so I wouldn’t touch lamb.”

The meals would often include a form of bread and red wine, he said.

would move us during the nighttime, starting about one or so in the
morning and we’d go until before daybreak where we’d hide out

After about two weeks, “We finally worked our way back
to the coast of the Adriatic and then we island-hopped, by small boats.
The last one was a larger one. It was a combination power and sailboat.
We were on that for 14 hours. We kept undercover and you had the
natives on deck and they got us to the island of Vis, which was
British-held and the British contacted our air force headquarters in
Bari, Italy. Then the air force sent a plane over to pick us up.”

After rejoining their bomb group, the men were given some options regarding their future.

had the opportunity to go home if you were shot down in enemy territory
— you had the alternative of going home or staying. We decided to stay
and finish up our missions. At that time, when somebody went back to the
states, they’d be there about a month or so and then they sent you to
the South Pacific — and I didn’t want to do that because I was a lousy
swimmer,” he said, laughing.

Ditzhazy piloted missions to targets
in areas including Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Southern France, Ploesti,
Bucharest, Albania, Greece and Brenner Pass, Italy.

On one of those missions, his aircraft got shot up so bad he had to make an emergency landing in Italy.

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading a mission in October, 1944.

“I got everyone back OK,” he said.

That same month, he was promoted to captain.

One of his most interesting experiences during his time overseas occurred during a rest period between missions.

went to Rome and got to meet Pope Pious XII — I got to shake his hand
and talk to him with about 20 other soldiers from not only the U.S. but
other different countries.”

He flew his last mission in early 1945.

“I came home and had the option of leaving. I was undecided what to do,” he said.

Ditzhazy, who was stationed in Walla Walla, Wash., decided to remain in the military for a couple more years.

He was assigned to occupation duty in Erding, Germany, about 12 miles from Munich.

By the time he was discharged in 1947, he had attained the rank of major.

returned home to his wife, Ruth, and their young daughter. The couple —
high school sweethearts — met in 1938 while standing next to each other
on a streetcar.

He was tempted to rekindle a budding baseball career he’d left behind when he went off to war.

was signed by the White Sox when I graduated from high school,” the
former pitcher said. “I got one spring in and that was it ... the guy
that signed me, Ray Myers, when I got back, he was with the Yankees and
he called and asked me if I wanted to try out again.”

Ditzhazy turned him down.

was married, had a child and I was going to college,” he said. “It was
always an ambition to play major league baseball when I was a boy. The
timing was bad.”

Ruth worked as a school secretary to support the
family — which would grow to include a second daughter — while her
husband was a full-time college student.

After graduating from
Wayne University, he would go on to a 30-year career with General
Motors. He was director of materials management when he retired.

couple recently celebrated their 70th anniversary, and to mark the
milestone, they renewed their vows on Feb. 14 in the presence of Father
Howard Lincoln at Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert.

Local steamers served as minesweepers during World War II | Byron Shire News

  • Margaret Henderson
  • 10th Mar 2014 6:09 AM

H.M.A.S. Nambucca used as a minesweeper.
H.M.A.S. Nambucca used as a minesweeper.
THE North Coast Steam Navigation Company had a fleet of passenger and cargo vessels regularly visiting all the coastal ports.

The passenger vessels were large and specially fitted for passenger
comfort but many of the cargo vessels were small, sturdy ships with
shallow drafts which could manoeuvre the shifting bars of the coastal
rivers while being fully laden.

They also had to be able to withstand the heavy seas often experienced along the coast.

When World War II was declared the Australian Navy found that its small
fleet had few ships which could act as coastal survey boats.

The German Navy soon began placing mines in the shipping lanes in and
near Australian waters and in 1941 when Japan joined forces with Germany
the situation became even more serious.

Fishing vessels and small coastal steamers were requisitioned and the
North Coast Steam Navigation Company soon found its fleet somewhat

The "Orara" was the first to be requisitioned as early as October 1939.

After being hastily refitted she was given the honour of leading a flotilla of minesweepers.

As with many of these requisitioned ships her crew went with the ship;
they simply changed from a merchant uniform to one with a naval flavour!

Her crew gave her a motto: "As they sow, so shall we sweep".

The "Uki" was the next to be requisitioned in December 1939, followed by the "Coolebar".

In January 1940 it was the turn of the "Nambucca".

The quick succession of these requisitions put a great strain on the Company's resources.

This was not helped by the loss of the "Tyalgum" near the entrance to the Tweed River in August 1939.

Several ships were also lost to a Japanese submarine including the magnificent passenger vessel "Wollongbar II".

It happened off Crescent Head at 10am on 29 April 1943. Thirty-two lives were lost, and there were only five survivors.

The story of the "Nambucca" is interesting in that it was some years before anyone really knew what happened to her.

After being requisitioned in 1940 she was refitted as a minesweeper.

She had been a relatively new vessel having been built only in 1936 by Ernst Wright of Tuncurry.

On 7 November 1940 she became HMAS Nambucca and formed part of Minesweeping Group 50 based in Sydney.

This Group undertook minesweeping activities around Wilsons Promontory and Cape Otway.

In April 1943 minesweeping activities could be reduced somewhat and she
was handed over to the United States Navy on 19 April 1943.

She was then refitted as a degaussing vessel.

This was becoming a more popular way of dealing with mines and larger
vessels like the "Queen Mary" were fitted with their own system.

The "Nambucca" worked in the Northern Australian and Islands region
until 1945 when she was found to be unseaworthy, decommissioned, and
deliberately destroyed by fire on 8th February 1946. Other local vessels
became patrol boats and barges.
World War II Napa: Blackouts, defense jobs and growth

Napa 150 Register front page, U.S. declares war on Japan

22 hours ago  • 

A world once again at the
brink of war wore heavy on the conscience of Napa Register editor and
publisher George H. Francis in June 1938.

Each day’s wire reports
brought more unsettling news of Nazi Germany’s aggression in
Czechoslovakia and the disputed Sudetenland, as well as its crackdown on
the rights and freedoms of Jewish people in Germany.

Against that
troubled world backdrop, Francis built a front page on June 20, 1938,
dedicated to the service of the woman who was resigning after 25 years
leading the local library. He reflected on the challenges he faced as
editor in an editorial that day.

“Maybe his readers unconsciously
blessed him when their afternoon paper told them that in spite of all
hell that has broken loose, the unspectacular business of making a more
civilized world was still going on,” Francis wrote. “Maybe a story
doesn’t have to have a corpse in it to be news, after all.”

While a
far cry from the rugged, pioneer outposts that his father, Register
patriarch George M. Francis, knew 50 years prior, the Napa Valley’s
towns were still rural and had economies that thrived or suffered with
the annual harvest.

The next seven years would be a time of
immense challenge and change in Napa Valley. Napa, its largest city,
began to burst at its seams to accommodate the influx of defense workers
and shipbuilders who poured into the Bay Area to work at the Mare
Island Naval Shipyard or at the Basalt shipyard. In October 1942, the
city of Napa marked a statistical accomplishment it will never know
again: It was the third-fastest-growing municipality on the West Coast,
trailing only Los Angeles and Oakland.

It was also a time of loss.
Young men, many fresh out of Napa Union High School, shipped out to
fight on foreign soils; some returned in flag-draped caskets, while
others never returned at all.

All of that seemed far off in 1940, a
storm cloud growing on a distant horizon in the bucolic Napa Valley.
The total population of Napa County was 28,414 that year, and the
unincorporated area represented 17,783 of those residents. The city of
Napa had only 7,700 residents; St. Helena and Calistoga had 1,700 and
1,100 citizens, respectively.

A drive up Highway 29 would seem
foreign to a resident of today: Fruit orchards and intermittent homes
would dominate the view, historian Lin Weber wrote in “Roots of the
Present: Napa Valley 1900-1950.” The tightly manicured rows of vineyard
and extravagant winery buildings that mark the view today were fewer and
farther between back then.

As editor, Francis was a statesman for
the valley, writing editorials in a gentleman’s voice and never with
the bombast found in other newspapers of the time. But even the Register
could not hide its enthusiasm when a movie, “They Got What They
Wanted,” was filmed in Oakville in the summer of 1940. Actress Carole
Lombard was the star for the RKO motion picture, which was filmed at
Nick Fagiani’s ranch in July.

The Register reported that 2,500
people showed up at the train depot to greet Lombard, and she was later
photographed entering the Plaza Hotel at Second and Brown streets.
Throngs of people followed her to the hotel, pressing their faces
against its windows to get a glimpse of Hollywood stardom.

inches in the newspaper tracked her every movement around the valley
that week. The infatuation was fleeting, however. Weber writes that
national publications picked up on how Napans “were dazzled over the
flesh and blood appearance of actors and actresses,” and poked fun at
it. “The Napa Valley’s reputation for yokelism became painfully clear,”
Weber wrote. The film’s premiere in October did not even garner a
mention in the Register.

The drum of war beat louder that year as
Germany initiated heavy bombing raids over Great Britain that fall,
coinciding with Italian and German offensives in North Africa and
Greece. While still officially neutral, the United States began ramping
up its defense plans and military spending.

Mare Island — and Napa
— soon saw the results. Eligible Napa men had to register for the
draft, while a steady flow of defense workers swelled the valley’s
population. Another Napa industrial institution, Basalt Rock, also saw
new business in supplying raw material for the military, as did the 20
local mining operations in Napa County.

The Vallejo shipyard
employed 6,700 workers at the beginning of 1940, according to Weber.
Eighteen months later that number had more than doubled, to 14,600, and
many sought homes in Napa and Vallejo. The figure had doubled again by
November of 1941, to more than 30,000.

A headline in the Register
that month was indicative of the boom — “Napa building reaches all time
high.” The 136 new residential building permits in the first 10 months
of 1941 were twice than those issued in the same period in 1940. A
front-page editorial on Nov. 11 — Armistice Day — reflected the mood in

“Once more the world blazes,” the editorial stated. “Once
more freedom trembles. Once more the German military machine overruns
defeated states. Even the most determined pacifist feels danger drawing
ever closer.”

Less than a month later, the danger arrived.
Japanese bombers struck the naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. The
Dec. 8 edition of the Register delivered the news, with a massive
headline on the front page: “WAR DECLARED!” Another front-page editorial
spoke of the ways Napans could aid the war effort, either through
military service or through working at the shipyards and local bases.

citizens, individually and as groups, will not hesitate to do their
bit,” the editorial stated. “Patriotic Napans feel proud of their
privilege to be of service. Together we are in this war. Together we
can, and we will, be victorious.”

It didn’t take long for
residents to begin to truly feel that they were at war. Air raid sirens —
based on the mistaken reports of approaching Japanese aircraft — blared
over Vallejo and San Francisco just days after Pearl Harbor, the
Register reported.

The city of Napa had more defense workers than
homes, leading many to set up in shacks and camps on the outskirts of
town. Local contractors began to pitch housing projects, including one
that would construct 25 homes in six months.

More were needed, but
the projects outgrew the city’s infrastructure. In March 1942, federal
housing loans were banned in outlying areas of the city because the
sewage lines weren’t big enough. Sewage would overflow into the streets
in the northwest areas of Napa that had recently been annexed into the
city, leading to fears of typhoid fever, the Register reported.

writes that the junkyard at Randolph and Second streets was transformed
into a massive mound of trash, while the banks of the Napa River
“became gorged with trash. People simply held their noses and continued
on their way.”

The Register’s front page also wrote of local men
in military service, reporting on brave acts or of soldiers dead,
wounded or missing in action. A story in April 1942 told of the heroic
acts of Napan Bill Wilcox, part of a Navy machine gun battery that
stopped a Japanese airplane from crashing into his ship.

stories were more incredible. Because Napa was so close to the military
plants, complete blackouts of homes in the valley were mandated — no
driving or exterior lights at night. Weber writes that in the first
blackout, a pregnant mother, Marjorie Hetland Wright, went into labor
and delivered a son. Her husband, Edgar Wright Jr., was fighting on the
island of Corregidor in the Philippines. He escaped a Japanese assault,
and spent 2 1/2 years surviving in the jungle, fighting the Japanese as a
guerilla, until U.S. forces reclaimed the island, according to Weber.

May 1942, the Register reported that all people of Japanese descent
were required to leave Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties for internment
camps. The May 30 edition of the Register was evidence of the dichotomy
Americans had in believing their triumph in the war would be a victory
for freedom and all of humanity, while turning a blind eye to the
plights of their Japanese-American neighbors.

The paper carried a
national item that day, reporting on the Memorial Day remarks of
Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. Welles said, “Our victory must
bring in its train the liberation of all peoples. Discrimination between
peoples because of their race, creed or color must be abolished.” In
the adjacent column, of no apparent irony to the typesetter, was an
article about the last 800 Japanese people being forced to leave Yolo

Rationing hit the homefront hard, and even the Register
was not spared. Federal wartime regulations barred the paper from
continuing home delivery to rural residents by cars, to save rubber
tires. That forced the paper to print earlier so the day’s edition could
be sent out with the mail deliveries. “We nevertheless must do so to
assist in achieving an all-out American war victory,” a note to readers

By the fall of 1942 the building boom in Napa was hitting
greater heights. October saw almost $1 million worth of home permits get
issued, as 240 homes at $4,000 each got approvals. It was during this
period that the Westwood neighborhood was born.

It also marked
crucial turning points in the war. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were
engaged in heavy fighting with the Japanese on and near Guadalcanal, in
the Solomon Islands. Their eventual victory marked the first U.S.
offensive victory in the Pacific Theater and the island hopping
campaign. In Africa and the Soviet Union, the tide was also turning
against the Germans.

In June 1943, the Register ran a fictional
letter that a “graduate” of Napa High School was writing to his older
brother, who had graduated the previous year and was now fighting
overseas. The letter, while invented, could easily be true, an editor’s
note stated.

“I realized that it was the last time we’d ever all
be together,” the letter wrote of graduation. “We don’t know what lies
ahead. A lot of the fellows are going to enlist. Some of us may not come
back to Napa or any other city. Maybe we’ve danced for the last time,
some of us, with our girlfriends. We’ll soon be listening for the
sergeant’s whistle ... instead of the class bell.”

The next
summer, Napa received a firsthand dose of the violence occurring
overseas. On the night of July 17, 1944, two ships at the Port Chicago
naval base in Suisun Bay were engulfed in a massive explosion from
munitions, killing 320 people in the area. Weber writes that a brilliant
flash of light from the detonation filled the Napa Valley that night,
along with a terrific clap of thunder.

By that point, Allied
forces were driving from the east and west toward Berlin, and the
confidence in victory grew. When the war in Europe was declared over, on
May 8, 1945, Napa residents were muted in their celebration, the
Register reported.

“There was little indication of public
demonstration,” the Register wrote. “The general conviction was that
confetti throwing, shouting and public celebration must wait until
VJ-Day arrives.”

That day came four months later, when Japan
formally surrendered on the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. Throngs of
people did get their chance to celebrate in the streets throughout Napa
Valley, Weber wrote. But many were also out of town because of the Labor
Day holiday. The Register noted the significance of labor, including
Napa County’s workers, to the successful war effort.

labor staged a historic exhibition of teamwork and unselfishness,” the
editorial stated. “Because there was a war to be won. Their success
amazed and confused, and ultimately defeated, the enemy. Now there is
peace to be won.”

At 95, Army nurse recalls World War II - | News, Sports, Jobs, Community info - Times Republican:

By ANDREW POTTER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

It's been 70 years since her service, but Charlotte Appelgate can remember her work in World War II vividly.

95, of Marshalltown, served as a U.S. Army nurse for three years
overseas, primarily at a hospital in Oxford, England.

Fresh out
of nursing school in Marshalltown, the nurse then known as Charlotte
Rowden, decided to enlist to serve her country when war broke out in
1941. It was a decision she doesn't regret to this day.

Charlotte Appelgate, 95, of Marshalltown, holds a picture from her time as an Army nurse. Appelgate served during World War II.
"It was a time when everyone wanted to do something," Appelgate said.

tended to "all kinds of injuries" during her time in the early 1940s
and seems to recall treating frozen feet the most. She was amazed that
many injured soldiers were sent back to the battlefield after being

"I think we were all sympathetic," Appelgate said. "We knew they would be there so long and may be sent back to the front line."

When the war ended in 1945 the nurses had a collective sigh of relief.

"Everyone was of course relieved and celebrated and celebrated and celebrated," Appelgate said.

arrived back in the states in 1945 - thanks to a ride across the ocean
aboard the Queen Mary. There she awaited her boyfriend, foot soldier
Eugene Appelgate's return from the war.

The couple was married in 1946 and went on to have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

passed away 10 years ago and Charlotte still lives in the home they
built in 1971 in central Marshalltown - the same town in which she was
born in 1918.

Both have penned their life stories to pass on to future generations.

"So that our children will some day want to read it," Appelgate said.

George Taylor, a World War II veteran himself, is in awe with what
Appelgate can recollect and communicate at the age of 95.

"I think it's amazing that she's got the memory to do it," Taylor said.

With seven decades passing since her service she admits "there's not many of us left."

She remains patriotic to her core, with a flag hanging in her front window.

"I support all them with all I can possibly do," Appelgate said.

WWII Vet Bill Guarnere Die

WWII Vet Bill Guarnere Dies

March 9, 2014, 12:24 pm

and family are mourning the death of a national hero. William "Wild
Bill" Guarnere, a South Philly native and World War II vet who was
portrayed on the television miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” died on
Saturday at the age of 90.

Both Guarnere's family through their website, and Jake Powers, a historian who runs a Band of Brothers tour company, confirmed his death.

Born in South Philadelphia on April 28, in 1923, Guarnere was a
non-commissioned officer with the legendary Easy Company, 2nd Battalion,
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division during
World War II.

Guarnere was six months away from graduating South Philadelphia High
School in December of 1941, when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.
Guarnere left school and worked for Baldwin Locomotive Works, an
American builder of railroad locomotives based in Philly, and made
battle tanks for the army. However, in order to please his mother,
Guarnere switched to the night shift and finished school, eventually
earning his diploma.

After enlisting in the paratroops in 1942, Guarnere joined Easy
Company, earning the nickname “Wild Bill” for his daring battlefield
exploits. Guarnere’s time in World War II was dramatized in the HBO
miniseries "Band of Brothers" in which he was played by actor Frank John

"He was without a doubt one of the bravest and best soldiers in all
of Easy Company," Powers said. "He was one of the best combat leaders
not only in his company but also the division. If there was a fight
going on with the 1st Platoon or 3rd Platoon, Bill would miraculously
show up and leave 2nd Platoon to go help. He would 'march to the sound
of gunfire.' He had no reservations and was just a fearless man in

Guarnere’s time in the war ended when he lost his right leg while
trying to help a wounded soldier. For his efforts during the Brecourt
Manor Assault on D-Day, he earned the Silver Star. He later received two
Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.

After the war, Guarnere played a major role in several veterans’ organizations and Easy Company reunions.

"He was the glue that held the Company together," Powers said. "He
would coordinate the reunions, do all the newsletters and send letters
to keep the guys in touch and find Company men. He did that from the end
of the war until his death."

Ultimately, Powers says Guarnere was instrumental in keeping the legacy of Easy Company alive.

"The heavy lifting that Bill did after the war kept all these men together," Powers said.

In 2007, Guarnere wrote the national best-seller "Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story" with fellow unit member and Philly native Edward “Babe” Heffron as well as journalist Robyn Post. Heffron died last December, also at the age of 90.

Guarnere spoke to NBC10 last year about his relationship with
Heffron. Guarnere claimed he knew Heffron was from South Philly the
moment he saw him.

"I knew he was from South Philly from the way he walked," Guarnere said. "Bing, bang, boom! That's the way he walked!"

Guarnere was also known for his sense of humor. Powers remembers a
particularly funny moment when the Veterans were in Bastogne, Belgium,
filming the documentary portion of "Band of Brothers."

"It was a real somber moment and everybody was quiet," Powers said.
"Then Bill says, 'Hey, look Babe! It's me leg!' It kind of broke up
everybody and everybody had a good laugh about it."

Aside from his skills in combat and humor, Powers says he'll also remember Guarnere for his tremendous compassion.

"Under his tough exterior he had a heart of gold," Powers said. "He
would do anything for anyone. Not only his Veteran friends but he was
also great to the general public, as far as autographs, appearances or
shaking hands. He was real accommodating to anybody."